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#unfollowcharlie but not just that March 28, 2011

Posted by jennie in Domestic Abuse.

my friend started this site as a response to the #unfollowcharlie effort, but that was just a catalyst. she had been talking about doing something to help victims of domestic violence* and was formulating that plan before all of the hype flooded the media.

* you know, “victims of domestic violence”, while true, is no banner to wear. ‘survivor’ sounds better, more empowering I think, but I’d like a better description.

when she was talking about her plans and ideas, i offered support while not really knowing how i could help. the first thing that sprang to mind were a couple horrible events that occurred involving satellite members of my family (i say satellite to refer to third cousins, relatives by marriage, et cetera and so forth) and i’ll get to those stories in a moment. the second thing that occurred to me was how sad i felt about the state of the male psyche that could push a man to look at a woman as a possession and do such horrible things to her. and then i got angry and saw the red neon WOMEN ARE NOT PROPERTY flashing in my head.

in my admittedly very simple view on the matter, we need to teach our men how to deal with their emotions from a young age. i read recently that dysfunctional parents raise dysfunctional children and loving, caring parents raise loving, caring children. we need to let our children but especially our boys feel their feelings and process their feelings. we need better role models telling our boys that it’s okay to feel, and to feel it, and then to let it go. and we women need to be the best role models for our daughters; we need to not only tell but show them healthy behaviors and what is and what is not acceptable in a relationship. it starts with us, all of us.

maybe you are reading this and thinking you are trapped in a situation and maybe that feels very true. i would urge you to talk to a friend and if you really feel hopeless, check out our resources or call the domestic abuse hotline. they are there to help you.

i was in a bad relationship many years ago. this man (and i use “man” loosely because we were both probably still very childish and young at 19-21 years old) turned out to be insanely jealous of a non existent past, because i had no real relationships before him. he would invent things to be jealous about. one night he kept pushing me to watch porn with him (which i vaguely recall featured very obese people) and he progressively got angrier with me as he insisted that i was enjoying it. i never wanted to watch it and i certainly did not like it, but he was manufacturing a situation in which he could justify (to himself) becoming angry and jealous and then violent with me.

i don’t remember exactly how that night ended; he may have threatened me with scissors or he may have choked me. once he threw an iron at me in the kitchen, during an incident in which a girl had called to tell me that my boyfriend was seeing her on the side. he threw the iron so hard that it dented a cookie sheet in the drying rack. i stayed after that and many more violent incidents. one of the excuses i gave myself was that i couldn’t leave before the lease on the apartment was up because i didn’t want to damage my credit. in hindsight, my credit should have been the one damaged and abused (because you know what, i eventually filed for bankruptcy any-damn-way and you can rebuild credit). on christmas eve, jealous for whatever folly, he choked me. i felt the breath leaving my body and my fingers clawing at his hands as he continued to compress my neck. he finally let go (as you can guess because i am alive to type this) and i wore a ring of purple and blue bruises around my neck for christmas the next day. i showed his cousin and i don’t remember what she said. i should have kept talking; i should have showed someone who cared.

i look back and i’m angry at myself for staying there and wasting so much of my life. but i grew up in dysfunction, and i understand that dysfunctional people like myself need mercy when judging themselves sometimes. i grew up without the love and nurturing i needed as a child, and people like me will sometimes do anything to get out of those homes and into relationships with someone who we think loves us. but we really need to love ourselves, and pay attention to our behaviors in relationships and watch our partner’s behavior toward us. if it’s not loving and nurturing, we don’t need it and in the long run, it will harm us. i did get out of my situation. when the lease was up, i moved back home with my parents and he moved back with his. i still didn’t know how to break up with this guy. when i finally did, he ended up stalking me late night and following me to another city where i had gone to a nightclub with my girlfriend. he waited in the shadows til i came out (so this means he was waiting outside for me for hours) and confronted me on the sidewalk, yelling that i never dressed that nice for him and calling me names (“whore”, especially). he shoved me around and he spit at me. he told me he was riding back home with me and my girlfriend. i told him to follow us in his car. when we got back to my house, i told my girlfriend to go home and call my parents in 20 minutes to let them know what was happening if i did not call her first. i eventually calmed him down and he left and i don’t remember if she ever called, but fortunately, nothing physical happened. he cooled off and left, and that was my last encounter with him. i should have called the police many times. i should have never been in that relationship, but i received the gift of a lesson: i learned that jealousy, especially manufactured, does not equal love. and i learned what i would not accept in a relationship ever again.

i mentioned family stories earlier and i’ve lost the vigor to go into great detail. my aunt’s ex-boyfriend, whom she broke up with and evicted from her home, called and left repeated threatening messages on her answering machine. she obtained a no contact order against him. i can only assume this angered him more, made him more jealous of the “property” he “had” that was no longer his because she had started dating someone else. during a week when her children were staying with their father, tammy and her new boyfriend went out on a date. her ex waited in the shadows and followed them to a bar and then back to her house. he waited a little longer, broke into her home while they slept, and beat both of them to death in her bed. he moved the bodies into her van, drove them to a nearby park, and set the van on fire.

my cousins miss their mother every single day of their lives.

my mom’s sister married a man i didn’t care for very much. he told rude, racist jokes around my polish grandparents and he was mean to her children. eventually, my aunt left him and he was horribly vengeful and mean about the breakup. he committed many acts of vandalism and sabotage; he cut a line in her car while she was in a store; he ruined her family pictures and scattered them all over her driveway; he printed up flyers calling her a whore and distributed them on her coworkers cars; he sent her ominous “gifts” – and he violated a restraining order many times. sadly, his daughter fell victim to the same jealousy and obsessiveness that he was displaying and i find it heartbreaking that she chose a partner who was so similar to her father. wendy was attacked at 3 AM while she slept by her estranged husband who stabbed her over 20 times with a knife and screwdriver, brutally murdering her. the noise of the attack woke their 9 year old son who witnessed his father stabbing his mother and flew to the neighbors to ask for help. the estranged husband was arrested with the screwdriver still in his possession. he had also violated a protective order.

my situation had not become as gruesome as my cousins’, but it could have. my aunt’s situation stopped being a situation when her stepdaughter was murdered; her ex-husband never harassed her again. that lesson came at a horrifying price.

possessive, jealous men

protective orders that were rendered useless

children mourning their murdered mothers

how do we fix it?

i don’t know. maybe it’s education. maybe it’s healthy male mentors and better modeled behavior for all of our children. i just beg of you, if you are similarly situated, take a small step and please talk to someone. and someone, if a friend calls you, you have to step up. you could be saving a life.



1. thesporkgirl - March 28, 2011

i love this post. very powerful stuff. in highschool my sisters and a school friend agreed that if we ever needed out of a terrible situation, we would use the code words “towanda” and/or “bee charmer” from “friend green tomatoes” if we couldn’t go into detail but needed help urgently.

2. bootlegsnacks - March 28, 2011

thank you. i think code words are a great idea.

3. Dianae - March 28, 2011

I commend this blog writer for having the courage to put these painful memories down in print for all to see. I hope it prompts its readers to educate women on being aware of why they are attracted to a certain type of man despite the fact that these relationships always go bad. Women are known to go for men that are like their father. This is not always a bad thing but it a powerful tendency and can lead to stories like the one above. Awareness is the first step in a saner direction.

4. bootlegsnacks - March 30, 2011

well put; thank you.

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